The Definitive Ranking of Every Sherlock Episode (So Far)

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Sherlock and John at John’s wedding in “The Sign of Three”. (Photo: Sherlock, John and the case of the angsty staring is another title they should have considered for “The Empty Hearse. (Photo: Courtesy of (C)Robert Viglasky/Hartswood Films 2013 for MASTERPIECE)

3. The Sign of Three (Season 3, Episode 2)

This episode tends to divide Sherlock fans. If you’re here for complicated mysteries and adventure, this episode is probably your least favorite. You’re probably ready to burn this list for placing it so high. If you prioritize the character work in Sherlock, you love this episode. You may be angry it’s not ranked higher. Because The Sign of Three is about relationships, and is the most heartfelt, moving episode the show has ever done. It’s also very different in terms of tone and structure, and either works for you, or it doesn’t.

The episode is built around John and Mary’s wedding, specifically the best man toast that Sherlock gives at the reception. Benedict Cumberbatch slays this absolute monster of a monologue, which weaves together flashbacks, comedy, a previous case, a present day mystery, and lots and lots of genuine emotion. We cover Sherlock’s touching confusion at being asked to be best man, John’s hilarious stag night, and their morning after in the drunk tank, with a bit of Sherlock’s realization he may not have the same place in his best friend’s life anymore thrown in for extra angst. It’s heartwarming, moving and real. It also all barely has anything to do with the episode’s central pair of mysteries, which revolve around a case Sherlock couldn’t solve. He ultimately does, of course, but that’s hardly the point of the story.

The Sign of Three is a love letter to the friendship of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. And a pointed rebuttal to the idea that Holmes is any sort of “high-functioning sociopath” at all. It humanizes Sherlock in a way that no previous episode manages to do. And it makes him much more interesting in the process.